The Spike Orchestra

The Spike Orchestra is an experimental big band led by composer Sam Eastmond.

Formed as a crucible  to test the limits of the big band format to breaking point, the Spike Orchestra is a vehicle for Eastmond's most outrageous and ambitious musical experiments.

Combining intricate orchestration and freewheeling improvisation the Spike Orchestra draw inspiration from jazz, rock, Radical Jewish Culture, downtown, surf, cartoon, noir, metal, classical and free improvisation sources as ingredients for their musical alchemy.

The Spike Orchestra exploded into being with their 2014 Album Ghetto, a narrative suite composed by Eastmond and Nikki Franklin. Inspired by the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Ghetto is a long form narrative work comprised of 10 movements woven together from three ensembles featuring 22 musicians. 

This ambitious studio work set the scene for future activity, focussing mainly on large scale studio work exploring the infinite possibilities of the medium through cohesive and interconnected material.

 

Inspired and shaped from their inception by Eastmond’s twin obsessions, legendary New York City Downtown composer John Zorn’s Naked City and Masada projects. Both sonically and conceptually, the Spike Orchestra was driven by a compulsion to create music that honoured and explored these ideals and sound worlds. Their first album Ghetto paid homage to the role of Masada and Zorn in creating a conceptual space in which large-ensemble Radical Jewish Culture could exist in the minds of the creators.

 

Following on from Ghetto in 2015 Zorn asked the Spike Orchestra to record an album of his Masada music for his Tzadik label and Cerberus: Volume 26 of Masada Book Two; The Book of Angels became the second Spike orchestra album. 

The Spike Orchestra became the only UK artists and the only group with a big band format to record in Masada. The music from Cerberus was premiered live at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival in 2016.

 

2017 Bought a return to Masada, Eastmond was hugely honoured to be asked by Zorn to produce an album for the Masada Book Three: The Book Beri’ah, 10 disc box set marking the conclusion of Zorn’s monumental quarter century long Radical Jewish Culture exploration.

The Spike Orchestra’s Binah became disc 3, sitting amongst long-time Masada and Downtown collaborators. Created in an intense and beautiful three month period in 2017 Binah is a high point in the Spike Orchestra journey.

 

In 2019 Eastmond working with JW3 was commissioned by the PRS Foundation to create a new piece of work lasting 15 minutes to be part of that years New Music Biennial festival, premiered to a sold out Purcell Room on the Southbank.

Inspired by Eastmond and the Spike Orchestra’s work with Zorn and Masada the work Brit-ish dealt with the British Jewish experience seen through the lens of RJC. Whilst definitively not the story of British Jewish life, after an exhaustive set of interviews across the diverse spectrum of British Jewish experience it is one possible abstract story. 

This journey led Eastmond to create more work inspired by this experience and led to an hours set of original music which in turn led to a marathon presentation of Eastmond’s work at JW3 in the fall comprising of the new music plus highlights from Masada Book Three, and Eastmond’s small group project Gulgoleth. All of which featured special guest Alexander Hawkins alongside long-time members of the Spike Orchestra family.

 

After the concert the Spike Orchestra headed into the studio to put this new work on record and with multiple Grammy winner and longtime Zorn engineer Marc Urselli at the helm produced the upcoming Spike Orchestra 2020 release Splintered Stories.

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